The Challenges and Opportunities of eLearning

This was my final project for EDUC4150 – Principles and Processes of eLearning.



Assessment Activity Plan – EDUC 4151

Course: Instructor ongoing professional development

Module: Different teaching and learning challenges

1. To Increase awareness of common learning disabilities
2. To gain ideas for making practical adjustments to existing lesson plans to accommodate various learning challenges

Course Caveat

The creator of this course is not an expert on learning disabilities. We also do not want to focus too much on learning disabilities but more on a universal design for learning approach. We do want to increase awareness of some common learning disabilities but will make sure that instructors know that we are not in a place to diagnose or label.

Learner Profile:

  • learners are instructors at a multimedia arts and film school
  • all are experts in their industries
  • most have no formal pedagogical training
  • teaching experience ranges from a few classes to many years
  • many instructors are still working in their industries while teaching part-time
  • some have a lot of experience with technology and teaching technology, some do not use technology to teach and might not be as comfortable
  • all have used Moodle to some extent – whether it be just taking attendance and submitting grades, or uploading files and posting URLs
  • many of the instructors have requested more training on teaching to students with learning disabilities
  • instructors may not be paid for the time they spend doing this course

 Assessment Strategy

Objective 1: Common Learning Disabilities

  • Matching exercise for learning disability terms and definitions.

Instructions: Please read the following pdf. When you are ready, complete the matching exercise below. You will be asked to match specific learning disability terms with their definitions. Try it without out referring back to the pdf first but if you need help, feel free to refer to the pdf.

Objective 2: Ideas for making practical adjustments to existing lesson plans in order to accommodate different learning challenges.

  • Case Study Analysis

Instructions: You can do this individually or find a partner to work with who teaches in the same context as you. Choose 3 case studies. Read or watch the video clips. For each of the 3 case studies, write about 2 accommodations the instructor made for different learning challenges. Write what the accommodation was and what learning challenge(s) it addresses. Write 1 suggestion of another accommodation to do for a different learning challenge. Submit this to the course facilitator.

  • Make your own adjustments activity

Instructions: Think of a learning activity that you have done in your class. What sorts of adjustments could you make to that activity? Choose 3 learning challenges and propose some adjustments to your activity to accommodate these 3 learning challenges. Post this in the discussion forum titled “Learning Activity Adjustments”. Once you have done that, read at least 2 other posts. Then go back to your post and add 1 additional adjustment for your activity. Incorporate some of these adjustments into your classes. Try to make a note when you have done it. When you have had the chance to use a few of them, fill out the self-evaluation report and post it to the forum.

Assessment Strategy Rationale

Matching Exercise

I started with a simple matching activity for my first assessment for a few reasons. It is easy to do and low stakes and will build confidence for students who are experiencing online learning for the first time. Also, for something as objective as terms and definitions, a matching activity is best. They are allowed to ‘cheat’ if they don’t know the answers because the objective is to increase awareness and not to memorize all of the common learning disabilities.

Case Study Analysis

With the case study analysis, I wanted to see if instructors could pick out different in-class accommodations that could be made for the different learning challenges. The point is that the accommodations are subtle and don’t take a whole different plan. We are not doing individualized educational planning, they are just broadening their teaching styles to accommodate the different learning styles in their classes. I gave the option to do it in pairs so that those who are not used to learning online can still have some face to face time with a colleague. It should also help with motivation.

I have a few case studies for them to choose from because I want them to look at different types of classes and choose ones that are most relevant to what they teach. While the activity is somewhat guided, hopefully everyone can choose relevant case studies to their teaching contexts and therefore use what they learned directly in their classes. As this is the first more in depth assessment, students will submit their assignment to the facilitator for feedback.

Make Your Own Adjustments Activity

This activity asks instructors to think of their own examples of learning activities and challenges they have encountered in their classes. As they have done a few activities now, they can post their work to a discussion forum and have more interaction with other instructors in the course. Ultimately, I wanted to keep this assessment as relevant to the instructors as possible which is why I asked them to add another adjustment to their own context after reading some of the other posts.

The assessment part of this activity has 2 parts. The first part will rely on the course facilitator to mark the instructor’s forum post using a rubric. The second part will take a bit longer in that it called for the instructor to do a self-evaluation report after they have had a chance to incorporate some of the adjustments into their classes. This is the most important part of the whole module because “assessment strategies are most successful if they replicate something that the student will do in his or her profession.” (Osika, 2009)

There is potential for another layer of assessment here if time permits. I might put instructors in pairs and have them observe each others’ classes with the intent to look for learning challenges in their classes and to see what they to do accommodate these challenges. Alternatively, a senior instructor or another full time instructor could do this as they might have more time.

Journal 3 – Community in the Online Classroom – EDUC 4151

How does the instructor impact the community in an online course? What should be done to contribute to the community? What are some behaviours that could have a detrimental effect on the community? What are some ideas for overcoming the negative impacts?

What have you learned about the topic?

Instructor presence in an online course is a key factor to building community. However, it is the quality and not the quantity of an instructor’s contributions that truly make the difference and increase students’ learning. According to Brown (2001), some key causal conditions that lead to the development of community in an online course are as follows:

  1. expected behavior is modeled by the instructor
  2. sufficient time is given for discussion and interaction
  3. similarities between participants are identified
  4. there is a personal or academic need/desire to be part of a community
  5. high priority is placed on class interaction
  6. students are engaged in class dialogue

It is so important for the instructor to be present and on the ball in an online course. Not only should the instructor model expected behaviour, I feel that expectations should be clearly laid out as well. In online courses, there are often eLearning veterans as well as students who might be experiencing the online course for the first time.

I think sufficient time for discussions to develop is also very important. Conrad and Donaldson (2011) point out that online discussions take longer to develop but the depth of the responses and discussion is likely to be much greater than a discussion that would take place in a face to face classroom. As a result, fewer activities/tasks are needed in an online course and more emphasis should be placed in the interaction of students within one activity/task.

Why did you choose this topic? How do you identify with it?

I am very interested in the different ways of keeping online courses engaging and interactive and have always felt that there is a much greater chance of learning and participation if there is a sense of community whether it be in an online course or a face to face classroom. One of the main things an effective instructor can do is to build rapport with their students. I feel that if students are comfortable with the instructor, the chances of them being comfortable with each other are much higher as well. I always feel like I learn so much from sharing with my peers and really enjoy being part of a ‘community of practice’ as a student as well as an instructor.

So far, in my experiences as an online course developer, I have not done much facilitating. I have some experience in developing materials and setting up online courses and very little experience in facilitating an online course. In the little experience I had as an online course facilitator, there were times where I felt that it was awkward for me to jump in unless I had a resource to add or something new to contribute. There were a few times where I just thanked a participant for their post but in the back of my head, I wondered if this was even useful. The role of the facilitator/instructor in online discussions is an interesting one in that you want to have some presence but you also don’t want to overstep and shut students up by contributing too much. I want to explore ways in which I can maintain the balance of having useful presence without overshadowing students.

What does this new learning mean to you? What new insights do you now have? How has your thinking changed because of this learning?

I really like this useful list of the instructor’s facilitating tasks from Anderson, Rourke, Garrison, & Archer (2001).

  1. identify areas of agreement/disagreement
  2. seeking to reach consensus/understanding
  3. encouraging, acknowledging, or reinforcing student contributions
  4. setting climate for learning
  5. drawing in participants, prompting discussion
  6. assessing the efficacy of the process

All of these are things that the instructor/facilitator can do to make sure that the online discussion is moving along.

From looking at this, I realize that in my own experience facilitating an online discussion, I did try to do these things and even though I wasn’t sure if my ‘thanking’ someone for their contribution was useful, it can be – in moderation and balanced with the other methods of facilitating discourse.

I think building community in an online course has similarities with building community in a face to face class. The instructor sets the tone with their presence and draws out things the students have in common and keeps them engaged with meaningful and inspiring tasks that will make them want to explore and learn with each other. The instructor then takes a backseat and facilitates the students’ discussions. After all, adults learn best by experiencing, collaborating, and constructing their own knowledge.

 How can this new learning be applied in your online course?

In my online course, I will spend more time on fewer but more meaningful tasks. I see the benefits in investing more time at the beginning of a course on getting to know my students as well as giving them a chance to get to know each other. I will try to have more focused discussions and allow more time for these discussions to develop. I really like the facilitation tasks from Anderson, Rourke, Garrison, & Archer (2001) and will use those to guide my own facilitating when the time comes.



Anderson, T., Rourke, L., Garrison, R., & Archer, W. Assessing teaching presence in a computer conferencing context. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks 5 (2): 1-17, 2001. Retrieved from

 Brown, R. The process of community building in distance learning classes. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks 5 (2): 18-35, 2001.

 Conrad, R.M. & Donaldson, J.A. (2011). Engaging the online learner. [Kindle version]. Available from

 Shea, P., Li, S.L., Swan, K., Pickett, A. (2005). Developing learning community in online asynchronous college courses: The role of teaching presence.

Journal 2 – The Impact of the Online Environment – EDUC 4151

What have you learned about this topic?

I really liked Gilly Salmon’s 5 stage Model of interaction in online learning. I think that it is a simple model to keep in mind when building my own online course. It will help me stay organized and keep the progression of my course at a reasonable pace.

The 5 stage Model is as follows:

Stage 1 – Access and Motivation

Making an online course easily accessible will help learners from various backgrounds find the information they need and learn how the technological aspects of the course works. The learners are coming in motivated and the fewer barriers there are between their motivation and the course, the better. The instructor/moderator is also there to keep the motivation going and help everyone access what they will need for the course.

Stage 2 – Online Socialisation

Once participants in the online course, can access the course and all the materials, it is time for them to get to know each other a bit more. In many online courses, participants are coming from many different backgrounds and levels of experience with the subject matter as well as learning via an online medium. This is also good for the instructor as they get a chance to pre-assess the participants and determine who might need more support. This is also a low-stakes way of getting more comfortable with the technology of the course.

Stage 3 – Information Exchange

Participants have had a chance to get to know each other a bit more. Now they get to know the content of the course more. The instructor/moderator guides the participants as they gain more confidence with themselves, the course, and their peers. They begin to work through the content together and exchange information.

Stage 4 – Knowledge Construction

Now the spotlight is more on the participants to work together to construct new knowledge together. The instructor/moderator steps back and gives more power to the participants to take charge of their own learning. This is the stage of discovery and participants are starting to work on bigger projects and assignments in this stage.

Stage 5 – Development

Once participants have a good handle on the course content, they can start to find ways to apply it to their own contexts. The process that the participants went through during the course, should enable them to continue to build on the content they learned as they begin to use it for their own needs throughout the class and after the course is over.

Salmon’s 5 stages of interaction in an online classroom outlines a very useful progression of interaction. It takes time for participants in a class to warm up and I think setting up a course with these stages will help participants – especially those new to online learning, get comfortable with the new learning environment.

Why did you choose this topic? How do you identify with it?

I think this is a really good way to keep my online courses organized. I also remember that the first time I participated in an online course, the first 2 stages were the most important for me. It was really great and interesting to figure out who my classmates were but it was also really useful in strategizing who to work with on group projects. It also helped determine how much and how comfortable I was with using the new (to me) platform at the time and how comfortable I was with engaging in deeper discussions with my peers.

The last stage is also very important to me as it is what kept me motivated throughout the whole course. In fact, I think that after stage 1 & 2, the ‘development’ stage should be woven throughout stages 3-5. It can help participants stay more engaged in an online course if they can and are constantly tying what they have learned back to their own contexts.

What does this new learning mean to you? What new insights do you now have? How has your thinking changed because of this learning?

I think one of the key things about online learning is that it takes time. It takes time to adjust to a new learning platform, it takes time to adjust to classmates that you don’t get a chance to see or meet in person, and it takes time to figure out how to go about teaching and learning online. Having the different stages of interaction defined is a good way to slow down and think about how to lay out a course keeping all of this in mind. Patience is key and there is no need to rush as everyone learns at different paces.

As Conrad and Donaldson (2011) point out, it is very important to allow an adequate amount of time for online activities to evolve. It is also better to have fewer activities that go more in depth in terms of knowledge generation than lots of smaller activities.

How can this new learning be applied in your online course?

Scaffolding does not necessarily only apply to the content of learning but also to the delivery of this content. In my online course, I hope to take my participants through the stages of interaction and use that to build upon the content sharing and knowledge construction and application as the course progresses. The following is a list of some ideas for tools I might use for each stage of interacting in my course. Of course, this is an evolving list.

Stage 1 – email, ‘ask the instructor’ discussion forum, advice forum from previous participants, more instructor/student interaction, more support

Stage 2 – discussion forum for self-intro, water cooler forum for other topics of conversation, setting up a profile page

Stage 3 – discussion forums, wikis, blogs, chat, email, meet in person (if possible)

Stage 4 – discussion forums, wikis, blogs, chat, email, meet in person (if possible), Google docs, Skype, Slideshare, Prezi

Stage 5 – work projects, reports, knowledge sharing with colleagues




Conrad, R.M. & Donaldson, J.A. (2011). Engaging the online learner. [Kindle version]. Available from

Salmon, G. (n.d.). The 5 stage Model [blog post]. Retrieved from

Journal 1 – The Pedagogy of Online Learning – Faculty Resistance – EDUC 4151

What have you learned about the topic?

The 2011 Outlook for Online Learning and Distance Education finds that faculty resistance is the number one barrier to online learning and distance education. At first, this was surprising to me but as I read through the “Seven Systematic Barriers to Online and Distance Education” (Bates, 2011, p. 9) as outlined in the report, I could see why that is such a big issue.

Some of the other barriers to online and distance education include lack of training in online teaching for faculty, an inadequate understanding of the costs, and lack of ambition from institutions to use technology for teaching whole courses rather than just enhancing face to face courses. Based on these factors, it makes complete sense that faculty resistance is so prevalent in online learning. Moving from teaching face to face in a classroom to an online platform is a huge change. Big changes need to go hand in hand with lots of support and training and the sharing of information.

From the Digital Faculty: Professors, Teaching and Technology 2012 webinar, it was really interesting to hear that there seems to be a lot of assumptions being made when it comes to online learning and online instruction. One example of this is from their survey results where administrators felt that faculty are well supported and trained whereas faculty didn’t feel as well supported as the administrators thought. With this kind of disconnect between the institution and the faculty, resistance is unavoidable.

Bates (2011), speaks of the costs in relation to the tuition being charged however, I think that quite often, faculty time is taken for granted. With shifting to an online classroom, there is also a lot of learning to do on the part of the faculty and that takes time and effort. This should be better acknowledged by institutions.

What has been your experience with this topic? Why do you think resistance exists?

In my experiences with online learning from the teacher’s perspective, I have seen some faculty resistance but not as the main barrier to online learning. This is probably because I was mostly outside of the post-secondary field and more in ESL for immigrants. We were also not moving entirely to online learning but rather, created online classrooms to supplement the face to face and it was our students who requested the extra materials.

In terms of faculty resistance, the most resistance came from those who already struggled with technology to begin with. They did not feel supported and also did not feel like they had time for yet another thing to worry about on top of prepping, teaching, marking and all their other administrative duties.

I think a lot of the resistance and friction between teachers and administrators exists because of lack of communication, money, and time. Administrations should be as transparent as possible when trying to make such a big change. Teachers should be given a forum to voice their concerns and work together and support each other. Administrators should also respect and acknowledge the time and effort it takes to learn this new way of teaching. I think that collaboration and support are key to getting buy in from instructors.

What are your ‘aha’ moments related to this topic? What new insights do you now have? How was your thinking changed because of this reflection?

I have only moderated a few small online classes so when I think about online instruction for bigger classes, I do feel quite daunted by the amount of emailing and extra support hours that I assumed would come with an online class. However, some of the advice from the webinar included great ideas to tackle this. One practical insight that I’ve gained is to use an “ask the instructor” discussion forum to answer student questions. That way everyone can see all the other questions and can be directed to check the forum before posting their own question. There is even potential for students to answer each other’s questions. Clear guidelines and expectations regarding when to expect a reply to emails is also key in decreasing stress from the online instructor.

Faculty should take the opportunity to let go of some control and let students take more responsibility for their own learning. As long as the course is well organized, engaging, relevant, and useful to the students, they will step up and be more autonomous in their learning. Online learning has much more potential to being more student-centred than a face to face class.

Another ‘aha’ moment for me was that technology should not come first. When designing a course, the goals and outcomes are the first place to look. Technology should fit with that and not the other way around. This journal is about instructor resistance but on the flip side of that, I have worked with a lot of techie instructors and am sometimes one myself. We want to embrace technology and use it to make our lives easier and to enhance our students’ learning experience. The only thing about that is that it is easy to get excited about the latest tool but we need to remember that it may be a great innovation but it may not work that well with our course goals. It can also get quite overwhelming trying to keep track of all the latest advances. I think that it is important to realize that there is no pressure to constantly keep up with the latest tech tools and that the latest is not always the greatest for your classroom.

How can this new learning be applied in your online course?

I have learned that it is very important to start with the goals and outcomes when designing a course. This should dictate what technology is used, what activities are included, and what the course looks like.

Faculty resistance was the main idea of this journal but the reasons for resistance also apply to students. I want to keep my course well organized, transparent, respectful of my learners’ time and not make any assumptions when designing the course. For example, instructors have to learn new technology in order to use it to teach. Students also need to learn or at least get acquainted with whatever learning platform and/or tech tools are being used in their online classrooms. I think having a supportive and collaborative course with clear expectations will set both students and instructor up for success.



Bates, T. (2011) 2011 outlook for online learning and distance education. Contact North. Retrieved from:

Inside Higher Ed. (2012, September 24). Faculty and Technology [webinar]. Retrieved from:

Back to It – EDUC 4151 Design & Develop Interactive eLearning

Do you currently read any blogs? Why or Why not?
I don’t read any particular blogs but I do follow a lot of educational twitter accounts and sometimes browse through the education section on Flipboard. I’ve also signed up for the Faculty Focus newsletter which has really great headlines that make me want to read the articles and find out more but I haven’t really had time to do this.

How do you feel about your abilities as a blogger? Do you have any concerns?
I think I am a capable blogger but I don’t have the discipline to keep it up. I had my first experience blogging when I first moved to Japan. This was a while ago and it was really fun blogging about my experiences. I was a lot less self conscious about my online presence back then. Now, I’d much rather use my blog as a collection of interesting links and articles that I have come across.

What goal would you like to meet with this blog?
I’d like this blog to be a collection of things that I’ve reflected on and learned throughout this course in online instruction. I may continue to use it after the course but I’m not really sure at this point.

Journal 3 – Summarizing your Learning – EDUC 4150

What have you learned about developing an effective online course?

I learned that there are many things that need to be taken into consideration when creating an effective online course.

First of all, the different generations of learners and how much training they might need on the technology to begin with is one of the main things an online course developer needs to keep in mind. Some learners might need tutorials on how to navigate the Learning Management System (LMS) and even the acronyms and jargon used within eLearning.

There is also a growing amount of eLearning tools that are available for use but this doesn’t necessarily mean that they should be used. As course creators, we need to be careful when choosing tools as there is potential for tools to impede rather than enhance learning.

Quality guidelines are the foundation of an effective online course. Without them, it would be very hard to stay organized when creating a course and make sure that all the different aspects of the course is to high standards.

One of the biggest things that I am taking away from this course is that it was a really good model of what a course should look like after having absorbed all the information from the course itself. I really appreciate that as I am a big fan of using the method to teach the method.

How does this fit with your experience? What would you like to emulate from your own successful elearning experiences? What would you like to improve upon so that your own learners have a more positive experience?

The things I am taking away from the course are things that give me little ‘aha’ moments when I reflect on my previous experiences in online course creation. I would like to emulate activities and the layout and organization of courses that I have taken. I also have a new found appreciation of how much work those instructors put into creating the online courses that I have taken.

My online work experience is mostly as a learner or in teams. When working in teams, I think it is really important to communicate with each other. In one of the projects I worked on, there were times I understood what we were doing but there were also times where I was just given the outline on paper and then had to create a courses from that. I didn’t really think to take a step back and look at how the course outline on paper might translate to an online course. I just uploaded the content and materials into an online course and then had to backtrack after seeing it laid out in an online course. I ended up reorganizing everything and simplifying some of the components. I think that situation that I found myself in was one where having quality guidelines would have been very useful. I think the original creator of the course had a lot of classroom experience but not as much online experience. It also didn’t help that we were not working at the same physical location and had limited communication. I think that in order to be more efficient and for everyone on a learning development team to be on the same page, some kind of quality guidelines checklist is an absolute must. This is the area that I will definitely spend more time on from now on.

What new insights do you now have? How has your thinking changed around creating effective online courses after taking EDUC 4150?

One of the biggest insights I got from this course is that content is not the driver of an online course. You could have the most riveting content but ultimately, it is the way it is presented and the way learners get to interact with the content that truly makes it a successful and engaging course. Creating an effective online course can be a really creative process but it needs to start as a methodical process to ensure that guidelines are met and that the creativity is not overtaking the effectiveness of the course. It has to be very well organized and sequenced and checklists for the instructor as well as the learners is key to ensuring a successful course.

Another point that I will keep in mind and am looking forward to learning more about is the different types of interactions and activities that can be used to keep students engaged and motivated in an online course. It is not easy to keep motivated in an online course as a learner so the instructor needs to find many different ways to keep learners interested and seeing the relevance a course has to their real lives. I think that making sure that interactions and activities are flexible is also a key thing to keep in mind.

How can this new learning be applied in your online course?

When I create my online course, I will spend a lot of time at the beginning in establishing guidelines and making sure that there is a solid framework for the course. This seemed like a small step to me but in fact, I think it is the biggest and most important step in the process. It will make the rest of the course creation process a lot smoother and there will be less backtracking and having to do things over.

The resources from this course were also really useful and I will keep them for future reference. I will also keep this in mind when I have to choose resources for my own course. The need to be useful, practical, and easily accessible. I ended up with the Kindle version of the text book as that is what I prefer. The one thing with that though, is there were no page numbers in the Kindle edition so I had to guess which parts to read for which sections. I also read that using Kindle “locations” is not that accurate as everyone will be reading on different devices. I think the best thing to do is to use page numbers as well as chapter or section names.

I will also incorporate training videos for the technological tools that I use to ensure that learners not get lost of overwhelmed by the technology.